Q: I’m trying to lose weight. I’ve heard that intervals give you the best fat burn—in a short amount of time—but since I’ve started doing them, I’m more hungry after my workouts. Help!
A: If you’re hungry after your interval workouts, you’re either dehydrated—or you’re not working hard enough.
As you’ve heard, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a great way to lose weight in as little as 30 minutes a day. This super-intense workout involves short bursts of maximum effort separated by easy periods.
While some scientific studies question the benefits of intervals, if you look at the overall research--such as a 2011 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise--high-intensity interval training “comes out ahead in terms of appetite suppression, energy expenditure, weight loss, and hormone balance,” says Shawn Talbot, PhD, Vice President of Research & Development for MonaVie.
If you’re up for the challenge of intense intervals, though, the secret to weight loss and appetite control, says Talbot, is to “go hard enough” to make the changes needed in your body.
Talbot suggests using a “ladder” interval pattern—such as starting with 1 minute of maximum effort, then 2 minutes ... 3 minutes ... and "back down" the ladder until you are at 1 minute again. Then repeat. Stick with a set amount of rest (or an easy pace) in between each interval, such as 1-2 minutes. This type of interval workout, says Talbot, burns twice as many calories in a short amount of time as “fat-burning” endurance workouts.
What about hunger after a workout? Most people aren’t hungry for several hours after an intense workout. If you do get hungry, Amy Margulies, R.Dl, lead Registered Dietitian at Retrofit, has these tips to combat a raging appetite—and avoid overeating.
- Time your pre-workout meal or snack so that when you finish your workout, it's time for you next regular meal or snack (and wait at least an hour after a meal to exercise). This helps you avoid skipping a meal or eating an extra one. Also, make sure you are getting enough carbohydrates and protein in your post-workout meal.
- Stay hydrated during and after exercise. “Often thirst is mistaken for hunger,” says Margulies, who generally recommends water, or sometimes low-calorie sports drinks with electrolytes--like G2 or Propel--for more intense workouts.
- Weigh yourself before and after your workout. Because dehydration can often be mistaken as hunger after intense workouts, the easiest way to gauge fluid loss is by seeing how much weight you've lost. Try to slowly drink the same amount of water as your lost weight.
- Shawn Talbott, Ph.D, is the author of over 200 articles and 10 books on nutrition, fitness, and wellness, and is currently the Vice President of Research & Development for MonaVie, a leading wellness company. His research is primarily focused on metabolism, weight loss, sports nutrition, and human performance.
- Amy Margulies, R.D., is a Registered and licensed Dietitian, and Certified Diabetes Educator. She is the Lead Registered Dietitian at Retrofit. Amy has been educating clients about healthy eating for nearly 20 years. Amy strives to help clients make sustainable lifestyle changes without dieting or giving up their favorite foods.